Fabrics and the Software-Defined Data Center

Moonshot Cartridge

Calxeda has announced its second generation SoC, the ARM® Cortex™ A15 based EnergyCore™ ECX-2000.    This is the industry’s first ARM-based SoC enabled for full OpenStack clouds, Xen and KVM virtualization, and delivers twice the performance of the first generation ARM-based server SoCs. Calxeda will demonstrate the new platform running Ceph object storage and OpenStack  at this week’s ARM TechCon conference in Santa Clara, October 29-31.  Notably, HP has selected the ECX-2000 for an upcoming Moonshot server in early 2014. Calxeda also added a second 64-bit SoC to its roadmap that is pin-compatible with the ECX-2000,  accelerating the availability of production 64-bit Calxeda-based systems in 2014 and protecting customers investments.

While this is big news, there is a far more important story to be told.  The new ECX-2000 is just the next step on the journey to a far more efficient datacenter. This journey will fundamentally reshape the datacenter infrastructure into a fleet of compute, storage, networking, and memory resources; the so-called Software-defined Data Center.

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Frank Frankovsky, Chairman of the Open Compute Foundation, to join Calxeda Board of Directors: What it means for Calxeda

Calxeda has added the great bearded one to it’s Board of Directors.  FF-Holding-Knockout We couldn’t be more thrilled with Frank’s confidence in Calxeda and the future of our exciting roadmap.    Frank will bring an amazing wealth of knowledge and contacts to our business, which can make the difference between being mediocre and being awesome.     THINKING you know what customers  want is nice, but KNOWING for certain is invaluable to making the right decisions.

Designing a processor is always an art of making trade-offs, and this is especially true when you are designing an SOC,  with all  the  functionality of an entire server on a small slice of silicon no larger than your fingernail.   Its not about the processor, its about the entire system,  or even a large slice of the entire datacenter.  You have to decide whether to dedicate transistors and die area (and therefore cost) to cores,  cache,  memory controllers, I/O controllers, which I/O features, fabric switches, management engines, fabric software features, management software/firmware,  etc, etc, etc.  Would your target market customers prefer more cores?   Ok, then you better have enough memory controllers to feed them, or they starve (aka, sit around and do nothing).  Oh, you want more cores but don’t have  room for enough cache?  Well, thats a problem.   (See a certain new atomic chip with anemic core-to-cache ration for a good example ;-)   Again, you are giving the cores time to take a little coffee break while they wait for memory fetches.   And that means poor efficiency.

Since we are all about efficiency at scale,   these same tradeoffs apply to the all-important features of the interconnect, or fabric.  Here, the trade-offs are not the normal domain of a processor designer.  These are large system behavioral questions that span networking, compute, and storage.   Frank’s datacenter knowledge from his years at Dell DCS and Facebook will give us the inside track to build more than a good chip.  We are enabling datacenter infrastructure, or, so-called “software-defined infrastructure” .

All these little decisions will determine the fate of a project,  and perhaps a company.  There is no margin for error.  We are very honored to have Frank join us on this journey and help us become a great company and a vital asset to our customers .  Welcome aboard, Frank!  Enjoy the ride!


Intel announcement: Another atomic teardrop or a watershed?

Pretty obvious, and yes it is really true

Intel is widely expected to announce a new version of their ATOM SOC for microservers next week. Based on the Silvermont microarchitecture, the Avoton SOC is widely expected to repair their reputation after the disastrous Centerton product that has been largely ignored as a way-too-little-too-late response to ARM.

While we all eagerly await the final specs, and prices,  some speculate that this chip will make it harder for ARM-based server SOCs to get traction.  I think the opposite is more likely.  If this chip is really good,  and priced to sell, it means that Intel itself has capitulated to the market demands for a lower power chip designed for real workloads instead of benchmarks.  And THAT will validate everything the ARMy of SOC guys have been saying:  you don’t always NEED a Xeon behemoth, so why pay for it in terms of power, space, and $$$??  And of course, they wouldn’t do that, at the potential expense of Xeon margins, if they really thought this was less than 10% of the market, and if they didn’t feel threatened by ARM.

So, I’m rooting for Intel for a change. Validate the market,  join the party,  and may the best RACK win!  (a thinly veiled reference to the important of the fabric, which Calxeda fans may appreciate ;-)


Migrating Applications to a Calxeda ARM Server with Breeze

Written by Rosemary Francis – Ellexus, Ltd.

The new ARM servers are an economical choice for anyone looking to host massively parallel applications; the technical specifications speak for themselves. But the next question is always about the cost of migrating applications to this new architecture.

Whether moving from x86 or from a PowerPC architecture, you are likely to have to recompile your applications for the new ARM servers. A little preparation early on can save a lot of time in the long run. You can also save time by using Breeze, a tool from Ellexus to help you migrate your applications easily.

Step 1: Work out what your dependencies are

Before you move anything, work out what you need to move. Breeze is a dependency tracing tool that gathers information about your programs as they run. It will show you which programs are used by your application as well as all their files and libraries.

As well as build scripts and source code you’ll want to pre-install all the programs that your build uses. Tracing your application inside Breeze will give you this. You can pull up a list of all the files that have been used as well as all the programs that are called.


Step 2: Recompile your application on the ARM server

If your build uses the default path settings to find the compilers and other programs needed to compile your program, you’ll be able to run your build just fine. Most of the commonly-used programs will be already available and you’ll be able to install them using ‘apt-get install’ or via a similar package manager.

If your scripts have system-specific code to find compilers and libraries then you may need to tweak a few lines to point in the right place. For example, on ARM servers the GNU C libraries will be located in /lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf whereas on a x86 machine they are in /lib64.

Optimising performance

The ARM servers are so new that the software partners are bringing out performance-enhancing updates all the time. It is a really good idea to review each of your major dependencies and check that you have the most up-to-date version. Breeze will give you a list of libraries, files and programs used by your build.

What to do if something goes wrong

Occasionally build problems will arise and Breeze can help you to find a solution quickly. Trace your build on the ARM server and compare it with the build on your old machine. There will be some differences that don’t matter, but you should be able to work back from the failure and pick out unexpected differences.


You can also see what is going on inside the build. For example, if you get a “library not found” error from your linker, Breeze can tell you if it is looking in the wrong place or whether it is finding your library and rejecting it.

Step 3: Run your application and profile its performance

Hooray! You are up and running! Now you want to see how your programs perform. IO-bound applications are particularly suited to the ARM servers and you can use Breeze to profile the file IO to gain a holistic overview of performance.

Choose areas of the file system to profile; the tool install directory, project data and temporary storage areas work well. Breeze will then track how much file IO goes to those areas so you can see what the application is doing.

You can pick out peaks of IO when the application loads and when it performs certain tasks. This can be compared with other machines to give you an indication of which areas of the application are faster and which are slower.

Screen shot 2013-07-26 at 11.09.33 AM

The graph above shows the number of bytes written to /tmp and /home in a multi-target build over time. I can use this information to optimise my file system as well as pick out performance bottlenecks. In this way Breeze can make it easy to migrate your applications and get a good insight into the performance implications of the new architecture.

Java, Fedora, and Xen Support: All on Calxeda

With the allure of a good book on the beach stealing everyone’s attention this summer, you may have missed three important developments in the Linux community to support ARM in the datacenter.  The first was the announcement that with the new Fedora 19, Fedora has released ARM and x86 support simultaneously.  This was made possible, in part, thanks to a Boston Viridis build-farm installed earlier this year.  ARM support is now available in media and installer images for TI OMAP4, nVidia Tegra 2, and Calxeda ECX-1000 (Highbank).  This represents a key milestone in providing complete Linux packages for ARM based development, appropriate for customers who roll-their-own OS from open source.  (Note that the Ubuntu community already enjoys a fully supported enterprise OS for ARM, thanks to the work of Canonical Ltd, a long-time supporter of the ARM architecture.)

Next on deck for your summer reading pleasure,  is the release  of Xen 4.3 for ARM V7 and V8 architectures by the Xen Project, enabling hypervisor support for 32- and 64-bit ARM SOCs.  Once again, this work was done on a Calxeda-based Boston Viridis system.

Finally,  today ARM and Oracle announced the next phase of their collaborative relationship to optimize Javafor ARM-based servers and embedded SOCs, extending their work to 32- and 64-bit optimization:

  • Agreement will provide ARM architecture support for key markets e.g. data centers, network infrastructure and embedded computing
  • Oracle JVM optimized further for 32-bit products and ported over and optimized for ARMv8 64-bit
  • Additional areas for co-operation include improving boot-up performancepower savings and library optimization

Note that Oracle Java SE is a fundamental technology for all of the market areas mentioned above.

Ok, back to the beach…

HostingCon 2013: InterWorx Control Panel running on EnergyCore demo video now posted

Live from HostingCon, we’ve posted a video of Brett from Interworx demoing the Interworx control panel and clustering technology on a 24 server Calxeda system. To see the cluster in action for yourself, tweet @InterWorxArm and see what the cluster has to say. We’ll keep the twitter demo running until the end of HostingCon.

Check out the demo video below:


HostingCon 2013: See InterWorx Control Panel running on EnergyCore at the Calxeda booth

interworxHostingCon 2013 is right around the corner, so I’d like to give everyone a preview of the work that our partner InterWorx has done to get their control panel and clustering technology running on our gear. Ever since the spike in interest from World Hosting Days back in March, we’ve been working hard to enable hosting providers to create Calxeda-based offerings. A key part of that is the hosting control panel, and we’re pleased to be working with InterWorx on creating the first control panel compatible with ARM servers. With just a little bit of elbow grease, we’ve gotten the InterWorx control panel and clustering technology to run on one of our 24-node systems. We’ll be showing a live demo at HostingCon next week, so drop by the Calxeda booth (#905) to talk to us and the InterWorx team.

Inktank and Calxeda Partner to Transform Ceph Storage Solutions

CephToday, Calxeda announced a partnership with Inktank in which we will together optimize and promote Ceph-based solutions in the market. It’s obvious why Ceph has been gaining lots of traction lately: it has been selected by Ubuntu as an official package within their distribution, and also for its compatibility with OpenStack cloud deployments. What may not be as obvious, however, is why and how Calxeda enables “microserver” designs that are a perfect fit for distributed applications like Ceph.

As you might have seen from last week’s announcement at Computex in Taipei, two of the three debuted systems are targeting the storage server markets, with a few additional designs that can’t yet be disclosed. More and more system vendors and customers are starting to realize the synergy in new “scale-out hardware” built for this new emerging trend of distributed storage software. But why?
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Calxeda Announces New Partners and Platforms at Computex 2013

Here at Computex this week in Taipei, east meets west to talk some serious techno-bubble, and eat some awesome shabu-shabu. The Calxeda suite has been jam packed with 10-20 visitors at a time, reservations only, to see the latest in Calxeda technology. Calxeda was demonstrating a new SATA-cable-free storage board-set, (aka “TerraNova”) and was thrilled to have three new companies showing off their shiny new objects: Aaeon, Foxconn, and Gigabyte are offering new storage and web servers based on the Calxeda EnergyCore SOC for their cloud computing customers targeting fast-growing Asian markets.

Foxconn 4U top

Foxconn’s 4U Storage Server with 60 drives

Aaeon Indus front

Aaeon’s new Indus Cloud Storage Server

Gigabyte H2C1 angle

Gigabyte’s new Web Server

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I was going to write a blog, but ….


Sometimes when you issue a press release,  you need to blog about it to make sure everyone understands the significance of the moment and the news.   In this case, Calxeda announced  that Fedora had chosen and installed Calxeda-based Boston Viridis clusters (96 nodes) to equip the Fedora community with production ARM servers. This is their shiny new build environment…  So, I was going to blog about it, but then read Charlie Demerjian’s article in SemiAccurate.  ’nuff said.  You nailed it, Charlie. Thanks!



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